Beating the Bad Breath Bully: Halitosis in Children

polk-city-bbBeing caught with bad breath is among the most embarrassing faux pas. In a previous post, we discussed the best ways to treat this problem in adults. Bad breath is much less common in children than in adults, but that doesn’t make it any less worrisome. As adults, we can usually stop what we’re doing to pop a breath mint or duck into a nearby restroom for a quick brushing session. A child whose breath smells doesn’t always have an opportunity to take action, and he may experience embarrassment and self-esteem issues as a result. Dr. Ryan Hussong, a family dentist in Polk City, IA, shares useful tips for helping your child overcome halitosis.

Common Causes of Bad Breath in Children

Poor oral hygiene is the leading cause of chronic bad breath in children. Observe your child as he brushes and flosses, noting whether he spends enough time brushing all teeth or just those in front. Ask him to demonstrate how he uses dental floss. Does he clean his tongue to remove food and bacteria? It may be necessary to supervise your child’s oral hygiene regimen, which should be performed at least twice daily.

Some fragrant foods, including garlic, onion, dairy products, and packaged meats, harbor sulfur and other organic compounds known to cause bad breath. Although most children do not generally consume large amounts of garlic or onions, Mom and Dad might be interested to learn that brushing your teeth after eating onions or garlic won’t necessarily address the odor. Compounds in these foods are absorbed into the blood, then the lungs. The odor is then expelled with each breath you take!

Upper respiratory infections, a common affliction among children, can also cause unpleasant breath. Fortunately, bad breath caused by postnasal drip, allergies, and common colds is generally temporary, subsiding once the infection is treated. Fungal infections in the mouth, such as thrush, also cause this symptom.

Children who are mouth breathers are susceptible to oral malodor. Breathing through the mouth causes the mouth and throat to become dry, making the mouth more prone to infection. Without the cleansing benefits of saliva, your child develops bad breath. In the long term, mouth breathing also increases risk for tooth decay and periodontal disease. Tonsillitis is a common cause of mouth breathing.

Without treatment, a cavity can cause a foul odor and bad taste that does not subside after brushing and flossing. Many parents assume that baby teeth never require fillings because they’ll simply fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth. Unfortunately, says Dr. Hussong, tooth decay and infections always require treatment to avoid long-term consequences. If your child is at risk of developing multiple cavities, Dr. Hussong may recommend dental sealants.

Kid-Friendly Treatment Options for Fresher Breath

Fortunately, treating halitosis is relatively straightforward, especially if poor oral hygiene is the root cause. Other strategies for keeping your child’s mouth clean and fresh include:

  • Scheduling professional cleaning and dental exams at least twice per year
  • Teaching children the proper way to brush, floss, rinse, and scrape their tongue
  • Gargling, especially in children who have larger than average tonsil craters
  • Avoid substances that cause dry mouth, such as caffeinated beverages
  • Keep the mouth and throat hydrated by encouraging your child to drink water
  • Chew sugar-free gum after meals if unable to brush

Although unpleasant breath in children is usually a temporary issue, chronic halitosis could suggest something more serious. If the former is true, improved oral hygiene is the preferred route to fresher breath. If the latter is true, however, it may be necessary to take your child to a pediatrician or specialist to determine the underlying medical cause.

Questions about treating bad breath in Polk City, IA? To learn more about preventive dentistry and hygiene, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ryan Hussong, contact Cornerstone Dental Group at (515) 984-6001. We welcome patients living in Alleman, Ames, Ankeny, Grimes, West Des Moines, and the surrounding communities. For the latest news and insights from our practice, follow us on Facebook.